The inspirational young North Korean defector who the president introduced during his State of the Union address Tuesday night has something he wants to tell the Kim regime.
North Korea did everything it could to break Ji Seong-ho both physically and mentally, but he stands here today a smiling example of human strength and indomitable spirit.
He experienced intense starvation, had limbs ripped from his body in a tragic accident, and lost family members to the callousness and cruelty of the regime.
To escape, he traveled over 1,000 miles, fighting to overcome every manner of challenge, including a depression that would leave him in tears for days at a time, waiting for death. He never gave up though, and his story is now an inspiration to people around the world, including the president.
Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to Kim Jong Un, he responded with a powerful statement.
“In the land I lived in, you could choose life or death,” he told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview Thursday, “I chose life. I chose to live in a land of freedom. I won. I achieved victory.”
Growing up during a famine that killed millions, Ji endured extreme hunger, often going days at a time without food. To make ends meet, he would steal coal from freight trains when they came into town and exchange the pilfered coal for scraps of food at the local street markets.
One trip ended in tragedy when he passed out and collapsed on the tracks. He came to as the train was pulling away from the station, as it was running over him.
The accident cost him his left leg and hand, leaving him permanently disabled and forcing him to rely on a simple pair of homemade wooden crutches for mobility.
North Korea treated him as an embarrassment, a disgrace to the socialist utopia the brainwashed masses believed Kim Jong Il was providing for them.
Ji was abused, mocked, and even tortured for his physical handicap, a byproduct of a regime that let millions of people starve through its poor leadership and heartlessness.
Disabled people are “left out of society and abandoned to wait for death,” Ji revealed to the Daily Caller Thursday.
Ji left North Korea a little over a decade ago, following in the footsteps of his mother and siblings. His father was, however, captured, beaten, and ultimately murdered by the Kim regime. To escape, this young man traveled over a thousand miles on crutches, dodging border security, crossing rivers, and battling dark thoughts that told him he would be better off dead.
After eventually arriving in South Korea, he was given prosthetic limbs to replace the ones torn off in North Korea. He does not need crutches anymore, but he keeps them as a reminder of all that he has been through.
At the State of the Union address, Ji held his crutches up for the world to see. More than a threat or a taunt, it was a clear message to the Kim regime. Against all odds, this brave young man won.
He told The Daily Caller that if he could tell the people of North Korea only one thing, he would tell them that “there is a thing called freedom outside North Korea,” and they can have it too. Ji said that he hopes the day when the North Korean people can be free comes soon.
A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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